Winter has well and truly arrived on the farm and with the rain and cold comes the arrival of the citrus season. These wonderful fruits are full of so much flavour, zing and juice that they are certain to brighten up any dull Winters’ day.
Throughout Italian countless variations exist of a very simple cake/dessert which pays homage to the season and the citrus fruits available at this time of year. Although my version here uses oranges, it can easily be adapted to use mandarins, cumquats, limes and even lemons – if using limes or lemons merely up the ratio of sugar by 100 grams.
Serves 10 – 12
2 to 3 oranges – total weight should be approximately 350 grams
250 grams almond meal
250 grams sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
good splash of orange brandy/liqueur
some butter and flour to grease and dust a 26cm flan tin
1. Place oranges into a pot with sufficient water to cover. Bring the pot to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 1 hour.
2. After the oranges have simmered for the hour, remove from heat and allow them to cool completely in the pot.
3. After cold, remove from the pot and split the oranges open and remove any seeds that may be present in the fruit. Then place the seedless fruit (skin, pulp and pith) into a food processor with the splash of brandy/liqueur and pulse until the fruit is broken-down into a smoothish looking liquid.
Don’t get hung-up with the pulsed oranges being completely even colour with zero flecks of peel, pith or flesh. Generally, 30 seconds to 1 minute of pulsing is more than enough to break the oranges down to be usable in the cake.
4. Slowly add the eggs one at a time into the orange mixture and whisk them together before adding the next egg. When all six eggs have been added, whisk the mixture on high for 1 to 2 minutes so the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
5. Gradually, add the almond meal, the sugar and the baking powder and combine to create an even batter.
6. Pre-heat an oven to 180° C and grease the flan tin with butter and dust with some flour.
If you want a completely gluten free version dust with almond meal or polenta/corn meal flour
7. Pour into the tart tin and bake in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes until the top is golden and when a skewer poked into the tart comes out completely clean.
8. Allow to cool and serve at room temperature. A dusting of icing sugar, some cream or ice-cream and if inclined, a few slices of caramelised orange or a splash of orange syrup will finish it off perfectly.
It is important to bake the cake on the middle shelf so heat can reach under the flan tin to brown the base. Furthermore, if the top commences to get too brown, place some baking paper over the top to stop baking.
In Italy variations on this cake include those using less eggs, some use polenta/plain or self-raising flours instead of almond meal and some even add butter or chocolate for a richer flavour.
I have recently been told that some people have attempted to make my recipe using alternative flours such as polenta (corn meal), plain and self-raising flour. If you want to make the cake using the alternative flours then you need to do an internet search and find a recipe using the alternative flours … substituting these flours into the recipe above is unlikely to create the correct moisture in the cake. My recipe is for the almond meal version only.